US athletes shone brightly under blue skies at Cardrona today in FIS Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup qualifying. On day eight of the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ, Kelly Clark and Gregory Bretz took out their heats and fellow Americans made up five out of the 16 automatic qualifiers for Saturday’s final.
Liu Jiayu of China won the other women’s heat with a score of 91.0 – just one point less than the score with which Clark won hers – and goes straight into the final with Gretchen Bleiler (USA), Arielle Gold (USA), Holly Crawford (AUS), Nadja Purtschert (SUI), Yuki Furihata (JPN) and Queralt Castellet (SPA).
Other men’s heat winner, Japan’s Ayumu Hirano will be happy to sit out the men’s semi alongside compatriots Taku Hiraoka and Ayumu Nedefuji plus Arthur Longo (USA), Nathan Johnstone (AUS), Christian Haller (SUI) and Tayler Gold (USA).
Speaking before heading up to watch the men’s heats, Kelly Clark – a gold and bronze medal-winning Winter Olympian – said she’d only been able to have four training runs before today due to poor visibility on Cardrona’s Olympic halfpipe.
“The pipe is so good and this is a great field. I’m really happy the weather cleared which made it possible to come out and land some good runs. For the final I’ll be doing a totally different run but playing to my strengths to keep it clean and big. Making it through was the name of the game today and I’m really excited about the final,” she said.
Those facing an intense semi-final competition include Switzerland’s Iouri ‘I-Pod’ Podladtchikov in the men’s comp and New Zealand women’s number one, Bex Sinclair for whom this was a first competition since knee surgery. She said she was ‘super happy’ with two consistent runs as she aims for Winter Olympic qualification.
“I came in just hoping to land a first run back in competition, and I landed both my safety and step-up runs. I’ve worked so hard in rehab, doing everything I had to do to get back to form. For the semi I’ll pretty much use my step-up run but go bigger and cleaner. No matter what happens, I’ve already got a chunk of Olympic qualifying points in the first comp of the season,” she said.
Head judge, Ola Sundekvist was very pleased with the day’s events: “So finally, we got it! We’ve had sunshine and perfect conditions. The only thing missing was a couple of days extra training and then we could have seen some insane runs, so hopefully we’ll have some great semi-finals and some super-great finals on Saturday.”
The Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2013 continues tomorrow (Friday) with the second of two IPC Alpine Slalom World Cups at Coronet Peak, qualifying heats for the FIS Freestyle Skiing Slopestyle World Cup at Cardrona and semi-finals and medal games at Winter Games NZ’s elite curling tournament in Naseby. The Downtown Sessions festival continues with the Adventure Film Festival presented by Auckland Airport at Reading Cinema, Queenstown and Cinema Paradiso, Wanaka plus two drive-in movies at Remarkables Park, Queenstown and continuing entertainment, live music and medal ceremonies at the Lotto Villages in both towns.